Columbia House Record Club

Dave Brubeck's "Adventures in Time" LP was one of my early Columbia House Record Club purchases. The year was 1971. Back then every Sunday "Parade" newspaper section had a large record club insert with an "amazing offer" exceedingly difficult for any teen with a part-time job to resist. "Purchase 24 albums in the next two years, and get Three Dog Night for just one penny!" Although I exaggerate, I do so only slightly.

My musical friends advised me on jazz artists they enjoyed, and I selected Brubeck with great anticipation. From my record club experience I learned that Dave Brubeck's music was one of life's great pleasures. I also learned it is essential to study the contractual details.

Last Friday, before the Brubeck Quartet played "Someday My Prince Will Come," Brubeck himself joked about the old Columbia Record Club. His "Dave Digs Disney" album was a record club Selection of the Month. Back then (and maybe still) the club mailed out a catalog each month. If you didn't send back an order, you automatically received the Selection of the Month. Plus, if you didn't send that record back within two weeks you owned it and would be billed for it through all eternity. Like many teens, I composed my first aggrieved and disgruntled consumer letter to the Columbia House Record Club about its abuses of the terms of my membership purchase agreement. The positive outcome nudged me toward creative nonfiction writing, but it pushed other students into consumer protection law school classes.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

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